Defense official: Hamas factions behind attacks on Israel (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel 03/30/12)
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Hamas is continuing to direct terrorist activity at Israeli targets
through various means, despite its public declarations that it is
committed to maintaining calm. Israeli intelligence sources have
acknowledged, however, that the Islamic militant group currently
wishes to maintain a low profile in an effort not to anger the
Egyptians and not be perceived as violating the current cease-fire.
The sources add that the recent round of hostilities between Israel
and forces in Gaza, during which Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of
rockets into Israeli territory, increases the prospect that next
time, Hamas itself will join the hostilities − and that Hamas will
actually view the scope of the rocket fire that Islamic Jihad engaged
in as a minimum threshold.
Hamas refrained from directly taking part in the recent fighting. The
escalation was ramped up on March 9 after Israel carried out a
targeted killing of a senior figure in the Popular Resistance
Committees militant group, Zuhair al-Qaissi.
The attacks mostly involved rocket fire by Islamic Jihad and Popular
Resistance Committee militants. Hamas forces did not fire rockets
themselves, but at the same time, they didn’t enforce a lull in the
fighting until an agreement was reached between the Palestinian
factions and the Egyptians three days later, when the factions
committed to stop firing into Israel.
According to Israeli defense establishment officials, however, Hamas
did act in a variety of ways without clearly leaving its own
fingerprints on the operations. For example, Hamas Interior Minister
Fathi Hamad, who is in charge of the security apparatus in the Gaza
Strip − and apparently of the lull’s enforcement − leads a small
organization called Defenders of Al-Aqsa.
Members of Hamas’ military wing are active in the group, which serves
as a front of sorts for Hamas and its members who continued to carry
out attacks against Israel. Recently forces from Defenders of Al-Aqsa
were involved in firing anti-tank missiles and mortar shells at
Israeli troops and Israeli communities along the Gaza border.
It cannot be ruled out that the group was also responsible for two
large explosive charges recently discovered by the Israel Defense
Forces on the northern stretch of the Israeli-Egyptian border.
Intelligence officials believe the explosives were hidden there with
the intention of smuggling them into Israeli territory for use in
attacks against civilian targets.
At the same time, the leadership of the Hamas military wing in the
Gaza Strip has been deploying several smaller factions, providing
them funding and instructing them. They include elements from the
Popular Resistance Committees who have been dispatched to commit the
attacks, including some from the Sinai area.
Last week, the Shin Bet security service cleared for publication the
arrest of a Hamas militant from Gaza who was involved in intelligence
gathering on the deployment of Israeli forces along the Egyptian
frontier. He had been planning abductions and to dispatch suicide
bombers into Israeli cities, including Eilat.
In a recent interview, the outgoing head of the IDF Central Command,
Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, told Haaretz that Hamas militants in the Gaza
Strip have instructed Hamas militants in the West Bank to try to
abduct Israeli soldiers and civilians as a bargaining chip for the
release of prisoners in Israeli jails.
A senior Israeli defense official told Haaretz that Hamas has not
abandoned violence against Israel. “It is drawn attention to less,
because the organization understands that this language [of violence]
is currently less acceptable in the international arena,” the
official said. “Attacks clearly committed by Hamas would not be
compatible with the spirit of the times, and the group also doesn’t
want to give Israel a reason to send the IDF back into the Gaza
Strip, but Hamas terror from Gaza is continuing all the time,
especially − and openly − via Sinai.”
According to the senior official, the events connected with the round
of hostilities this month have limited Hamas’ freedom to maneuver and
could compel Hamas to act the next time around, whenever that occurs.
By taking the lead in the last round, Islamic Jihad has posed a
challenge to Hamas, which came in for strong criticism for its
The fact that just under 300 rockets were fired into Israel this
month is liable to spur Hamas into proving that it can fire a larger
number of rockets next time. But the assessment in Israel is that
Hamas and Islamic Jihad understand very well that the decision to
fire Fajr missiles into the Tel Aviv area could come at the cost of
another Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. (© Copyright 2012
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